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Remodeler’s Challenge: What’s up with that fireplace?

Atascaderofireplace_2Is there anything better than looking at houses? I find it exhilarating to see inside people’s homes, either remodeled houses I tour for my newspaper and magazine articles, or houses for sale that people are ready to leave.

Sometimes, I see something that needs to be remodeled, fixed, altered, or otherwise made right.

I saw this beautiful 1980 house for sale last week. The dining room, which you see here, has so much going for it: That amazing wood ceiling, the hardwood floors, the light streaming in from the window wall on the right, the double French doors to the backyard.

But what’s up with that fireplace? I’m not crazy about that brick hearth. It seems too big and featureless, and too close to the doorway. Maybe the owners thought so, as well, and tried to distract the eye away from it with the wood mantle. But the mantle — which is really pretty and which I think I’ve seen for sale at Costco — is way too small. And the mirror over it is way too big.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to make this scene work for me. Maybe just turning the mirror 90 degrees so it was narrower than the mantle and reached farther up toward the ceiling would work? And the bright gold-look frame would have to be either painted black or replaced with a wood frame.

What do you think? If you were buying this house, what would you do? Or does this fireplace work for you?

(Do you have a remodeling challenge? Send a photo to and maybe we can give you some ideas.)

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